Hozuki-ichi (Chinese Lantern Plant Fair)

Posted by Yamamuro on Friday the 9th of July, 2010

On Yonman-rokusennichi (Day of 46,000 Blessings) on July 9 and 10, 450 stalls selling Hozuki or Chinese lantern plants and 350 stalls selling other items set up shop in the precincts of Sensoji Temple and the lively cries of vendors fill the night air. The ground cherry is a particularly popular type of Chinese lantern plant. It is cultivated at Shikabone-cho in Edogawa from spring just for the two days on which the Yonman- rokusennichi is celebrated in Asakusa. However, the plant often produces a poor crop depending on the weather, which pushes up prices in some years. 

The Hozuki-ichi is said to have begun over 200 years ago during the Meiwa era (1764 to 1771). According to the Kumo-no-itomaki episode included in Santokyoden, an attendant at a samurai's quarters in front of the gate of Shiba-seishoji Temple found a ground cherry plant while cleaning the garden and recalled that Atago Gongen had appeared to him in a dream the night before. He announced that if adults ate a green ground cherry at Atago Shrine on June 24, a day for performing acts of merit, they could free themselves of any problems and children would be cured of distemper. Some people promptly tried this on June 24, and finding that it was mysteriously efficacious, began calling it a wonder medicine. This was the start of the Hozuki-ichi that is held in the temple precincts. 

June 24 is the festival day for Jizo, the Buddhist deity of Atago Gongen and visiting and praying on this day also brought the same benefits as praying every day for 46,000 days.
It was also originally a day for performing good deeds dedicated to the Kannon, and after the start of the Hozuki-ichi in Asakusa, this fair in Asakusa soon became even larger and more popular than the one in Atago. Since the green Chinese lantern plant has been used since the Edo era as a Chinese herbal medicine to alleviate general fever and discomfort experienced by pregnant women, it appears these claims are not entirely false.

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